The Armstrong Williams story that surfaced last week is unquestionably a juicy one: the conservative, African-American commentator was paid a sweet $240,000 (in taxpayer dollars), by the Department of Education to promote President Bush's No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation.
Someone looking for signs of the growing importance of religion in American politics need go no further than the resurgence of "faith" in public discourse.
The word can mean either religious belief, as in faith in god, or formal religion, as in the Jewish faith, but in current phrases like "faith-based" it suggests both at once.
The emergence of faith as a political term was signaled by the rise of "people of faith." For most of the 20th century, that phrase was merely an orotund tribute appropriate to sermons and commencement addresses, often without any particular religious force.
"I salute you as people of faith, vigor, virility and intelligence," Dwight D. Eisenhower, the president of Columbia University, told graduates in 1950.
But in the late 1970's, "people of faith" began to show up in place of words like churchgoers. The usage probably arose out of a new-age aversion to identifying with organized religions, but it soon caught on among conservative Christians who emphasized personal experience over mere denominational affiliation.
Whose side is Bush on – the companies’ or the troops’?
CBS News reported this week that thousands of National Guard troops are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan to find that they have been fired in violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. The CBS report went on to say that increasing numbers of National Guard and Reserve troops who have returned from war are encountering new battles with their civilian employers at home. Government sources quoted by the Public Broadcasting System report that jobs were eliminated, benefits reduced and promotions forgotten for over 4000 returning Guard and Reservists since 2001.
Is American education devolving? Are our school districts regressing to an earlier form of intellectual life? Does the specter of William Jennings Bryan, prosecuting attorney in the 1925 Scopes trial, walk abroad at night?
The last several years have not been good ones for the progressive movement, and one senses a level of frustration akin to that of trying to disentangle 25 coat-hangers. Much of the frustration has to do with the fact that the truth about the conservative Right is not really getting through to people – at least, to those people who might be willing to change their views accordingly. The problem is partly a matter of the Left’s communication style and strategy, which need serious renovation, but also one of highly successful conservative efforts at neutralizing inconvenient truths, and at undermining the truth-tellers.
It’s a striking reality of our current political culture that criticisms of conservative policies or strategies are routinely denied having any truth value whatsoever. There are three main tactics by which the Right tries to delegitimize its detractors:
When the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations published its list of the top 101 sayings of 2002, it included a remark that George W. Bush was supposed to have made to Tony Blair: "The problem with the French is that they have no word for 'entrepreneur.'"
After the list appeared, though, a spokesman for the Prime Minister denied that Bush ever said anything of the sort. I believe him. It sounds like exactly the sort of remark the English would cook up to put in the mouth of an ignorant American.
In fact despite the right's current disdain for the French and those who speak their language, "entrepreneur" is one of President Bush's favorite words, and he pronounces it with all the sensuous pleasure that foodies give to "mousellines de foie gras." Speaking in Virgina a few months ago, he said, "entrepreneur -- isn't that a lovely word? You know, entrepreneur -- we want entrepreneurs."
The genius of language is to comprehend different things under a single name, but that can also be what makes it deceptive. Most of the proposals that President Bush has been touting to restructure taxes have been floating around for quite a while — offering tax incentives for establishing health savings accounts, reducing taxes on investment income and allowing workers to redirect some of their payroll taxes into investment accounts. But even critics of these programs acknowledge that they acquire a new appeal when bundled as part of "the ownership society."
But for all the slogan's domestic allure, the foreign press has had a hard time explaining it. The Italian daily La Stampa rendered the phrase as the "societa dei proprietari," or society of property owners. The German edition of the Financial Times used "Teilhabergesellschaft," or roughly, shareholder society. And a writer for the French business journal Les Echos rendered the phrase as "la societe de la propriete," using a word that can mean either property or legal ownership, but added that the English word "ownership" is so vague that the phrase is basically untranslatable.
The Canadian public has been influenced by right-wing and corporate media, much of it emanating from the United States, to have a negative view of trial lawyers and to perceive a need for "tort reform". Canadian trial lawyers and liberals would do well to learn from the U.S.
This is a much-condensed version of the Commonweal Institute report with the same title. Author David C. Johnson wrote this article at the request of this Canadian law journal, as the same organizations and individuals that are seeking to undermine the civil justice system in the United States are carrying out a similar campaign in other Anglophone countries.
Read the article.
It didn't take the Biblical injunction to "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it" (Genesis 1:28), for humankind to go about the task of filling and subduing the earth. It did take a few centuries, however, before some people began wondering about the implications of doing so.
In his 1798 Essay on the Principle of Population, the British political economist Thomas Malthus argued that the future rate of human population growth would increase exponentially while the rate of agricultural food production could only increase geometrically. The result, he predicted, would be an inexorable divergence between population and resources, entailing an inevitable train of grim consequences: poverty, famine, war, misery. The theory underlying this depressing scenario has been frequently challenged over the years, but its haunting power and intuitive plausibility suggest that Malthus was not completely off the mark.